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AUGUST 2001 - NO. 118

THE BLACK DOG

a ballad by the late John Milne, Stoer

Donald had sailed the seven seas,
From the Baltic ports to the New Hebrides.
From Japan to Cape Horn
He had treated with scorn
All the spooks and the ghosts
That the foreigner boasts.
Yet his blood seemed to freeze,
And he shook at the knees
When he thought of the Dog of Craig n’ordan!

Donald had sweethearts in every land,
From Si Kiang to the Rio Grande,
In bleak Elsinore
And in far Singapore,
In Burma and China
And North Carolina.
Yet the girl of his heart
Still dwelt in the part
Where wandered the Dog of Craig n’ordan.

So, at length when a perilous voyage was o’er
Donald decided to sail no more,
But return to the north,
To the land of his birth
To settle once more
On a croft by the shore,
Where the wild breakers roll
O’er the cliffs of Clachtoll,
Well watched by the Dog of Craig n’ordan.

The wine of Oporto had tickled his pallet.
The vodka of Riga had frizzled his gullet.
Yet his mind seemed to dwell
On the taste and the smell
Of his own mountain dew
With its pale amber hue,
So when journeying to Stoer
He drank whisky galore
And forgot was the Dog of Craig n’ordan.

When Donald at last staggered up the Glac-More
The night had come down, rain had started to pour.
Though wet to the skin,
Donald cared not one pin
But swallowed with pleasure
More drams of full measure.
And driving dull care
Once more to his lair,
He laughed at the Dog of Craig n’ordan.

And so he went cheerily trudging along,
Whiles whistling a tune — while humming a song.
Sometimes t’was a ditty
Of London’s fair city,
Sometimes a sea shanty
Learned off Cape U’shanti.
When the fo’c’sle had rung
With the songs that were sung
By men who’d ne’er heard of Craig n’ordan.

But now he was nearing the dreaded abode
Of the dog whose appearance no good could forebode.
So ere starting his task
He pulled out his flask
And he quaffed off a gill.
And he felt his heart thrill.
And now he was keen
That the dog should be seen,
The much dreaded Dog of Craig n’ordan.

With eyes ever searching the side of the hill,
He went striding along, then with horror stood still.
From a rock at his side
A black shadow did glide.
T’was as big as a cow.
And he saw plainly now
That confronting him there,
With eyes all aglare
Was the terrifying Dog of Craig n’ordan.

The Dog was indeed a fell monster of dread,
With eyes shining forth like the light on Stoer Head.
From his gaping jaw hung
A red flame of a tongue,
While his great teeth shone bright
In its awful red light.
And his sulphurous breath
Seemed to herald the death
To be dealt by the Dog of Craig n’ordan.

The whisky in Donald refused to be scared.
He doubled his fists and for battle prepared.
He aimed a swift blow
At those eyes all aglow.
But his straight left went wide,
For the Dog leapt aside
And he heard a voice say “What is wrong with you, pray,
“That you’d dare hit the Dog of Craig n’ordan.”

Ere Donald could gather his wits to reply
The Dog sprang towards him,
But as he drew nigh
Bold Donald sprang clear
And in spite of his fear
Caught hold of the tail
Swinging high like a flail.
Tho’ it felt burning hot,
Let it go, he would not
But clung to the tail of the Dog of Craig n’ordan.

Now there’s nothing that vexes a dog half so much
As to feel that his tail is held fast in a clutch.
With a heart-rending howl
And an ear-splitting yowl
The Dog ran a’far
Over bank, bush and scar.
While with muscles all strung,
Bold Donald still clung
To the tail of the Dog of Craig n’ordan.

By far Pol-an-Tobhair nor’-eastward they sped
And around the hillside by the sheep-shearing shed.
Then swift as the air
By Lochan-Eich Edhir
And down by the shore
Of Garave Loch More,
While even Loch Powl
Re-echoed the howl
Of the terrified Dog of Craig n’ordan.

At last the Black Dog fell down with a crash
And Donald was on to him quick as a flash.
As he lay on his side
Donald sat him astride
And he tossed off a swig
And he lighted a cig
By holding it close
To the burning hot nose
Of the panting Black Dog of Craig n’ordan.

The Dog howled for mercy and solemnly swore
That if granted his life he’d return never more
To frighten the folk
As they passed by the rock
But would hie himself where
There were no folk to scare
To some cave by the sea
On the Isle of Oldney
Far removed from the Rock of Craig n’ordan.

Since then from Clashnessie, sometimes from Culkein
On the Island of Oldney a light can be seen.
T’is the far-flashing eye
Of the Dog they espy
As he wanders at will
O’er the bare island hill.
Or when seized with the notion
He swims over the ocean
Far, far from the Rock of Craig n’ordan.

AUTHOR’S NOTE Up to the coming of the motor car, people walking from Lochinver, and no doubt accompanied by “Johnnie Walker,” were frequently confronted with, and scared by, this much-dreaded Dog, but thereafter the dog seems to have disappeared. However, about the time of his disappearance, and up to the present day, a mysterious light is frequently to be seen off Island Oldney. This is an attempt to connect the two.


John Milne, teacher, poet, raconteur, fisherman and politician was a native of Skerray. These hilarious verses were first published by the 200 Burns Club.

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